Minister hails EU fish quotas deal
An EU deal on fish catches for next year has been hailed as the best possible balance between safeguarding a strong UK fishing industry and ensuring long-term stock recovery.
Fisheries minister George Eustice, speaking after the annual bartering in Brussels over permitted catch sizes, said the Government had presented "sound scientific evidence" to fellow ministers to justify reducing the level of proposed cuts for some quotas of key species for the UK fleet.
And for other species responding well to years of conservation measures, the deal after two days of negotiations included catch increase of up to 49% next year compared with 2013.
Uk fishing vessels will also be able to spend the same number of days at sea as last year, rather than face further restrictions in the name of conservation.
"Although these were difficult negotiations, I am pleased that we were able to secure the best possible deal for ensuring sustainable fisheries and a strong UK fishing industry" said Mr Eustice.
"It was my top priority to ensure that days at sea for fishermen would remain the same next year and that is exactly what has been achieved."
EU governments have already vowed to end overfishing by 2015 as part of a major shake-up in the Common Fisheries Policy. Scientists have warned that, while stocks of hake and North Sea plaice and cod are showing signs of recovery, overfishing is still endangering most stocks in the Irish Sea, in waters off the west and north-west of Scotland, and west and south of Ireland.
As the talks began Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: "Strict catch limits can help rebuild stocks and coastal communities. It is time to leave the old demons behind. It is time to keep fishing to sustainable levels".
After the deal Mr Eustice commented: "I entered these discussions with the firm belief that any decisions on quotas or days spent at sea need to be based on three clear principles; following scientific advice, fishing sustainably and the need for continued reduction in discarding (throwing surplus fish back into the sea, dead, to avoid exceeding EU catch limits). We stuck to these principles throughout."
He said the aim was to meet the commitment to end overfishing by 2015 "where possible" and by 2020 at the latest.
Proposed catch cuts which were reduced for the UK fleet included Celtic Sea haddock (a 75% cut negotiated down to 33%); West of Scotland monkfish (20% reduced to 10%); Irish Sea prawns (24% cut reduced to 9%); Eastern sole (45% cut reduced to 18%).
Increased quotas for the UK fleet in 2014 compared with 2013 include a 25% increase in permitted catches of Bristol Channel plaice; a 30% increase in Celtic Sea herring and a 49% hake catch increase in all UK fishing waters.
North Sea cod quotas for 2014 were not included in the deal, and will be negotiated in separate talks in January.